This is a guest post by Dwayne Dinkins, a senior at Uncommon Collegiate Charter High School. He will graduate next month having taken 7 AP exams.
When I first came to high school four years ago, I wasn’t confident in my potential success because of a number of really difficult circumstances at home.
But yesterday I was chosen by my peers to share “my why”—why I know I’m going to succeed to and through college. I shared it at Uncommon Collegiate Charter High School’s annual Senior Signing Day. “My Why” is a story of struggle, hope and perseverance—and I have my foster parents, my teachers and my peers to thank.
I had to leave my house when I was 14 and this was two weeks prior to high school even starting. I lost my aunt to AIDS, my uncle to jail, my grandmother to asthma and, when I was five years old, my brother Anthony to gun violence. I have been with a foster family for the past four years.
Then two years ago, our good friend and peer, Loyed Big Daddy Drain III, was killed at home along with other family members, including his one-year-old niece. He was supposed to be walking across the stage with us yesterday, joining us in revealing to our community where he will be going to college. Instead, I know he was watching from above. And so we must get to and through college for ourselves and for Loyed.
Many of us, like me, have faced struggles outside of school. And then we walk into a place like this, the doors of 832 Marcy Avenue. On day one as a freshman I remember Principal Ashley Martin showing us slides about the mission of getting to and through college. She asked what resonated with us. To be honest, at first, I had no clue what resonated with me, but I knew that this school was going to help me reach my dreams in the future — and I always kept that in mind.
Every once in a while, I look at our mission in the hallways of our school and wonder to myself what resonates with me today. Four years ago, I chose the UCC mission because as time went on my life got worse due to circumstances. But I couldn’t let it get the best of me because I knew what I was capable of and what I want in my life. My teachers kept reminding me.
My foster parents helped support me academically and motivated me to push through the academic struggles I had from year to year. They never ever gave up on me, even when the odds were stacked against me. I fully appreciate them for their love and support throughout the past 4 years that they had me under their wing.
I’m making it to and through college because I want to show the people that are going through a hard time in their life that they can make it if they don’t give up and believe in themselves and keep track of what their end goal is. I want to set the example for the people who may look up to me such as my mentee Madiou, because he’s like the little brother I never had and I want to be able to leave knowing I left an impression on him and on all of our younger Cyclones.
I want to prove to my mom that I can be successful and that I can make it in a world where it is sometimes rare to see an African-American male make it out and do something productive with their life.
I also want to be able to look up at the sky and be able to tell Loyed that I did it and I am now one step closer to fulfilling the goals we set so long ago together. And finally I’m doing this for myself and my future because I earned it and went through a lot to get it and I want each and every one of my peers to earn their way to their dreams, too, no matter what life throws at them.
Yesterday I shared all of this and unfurled my college t-shirt and announced to my community that in four years I will be graduating from the State University of New York at Canton.